Canadians pessimistic about progress on racism and equity, survey finds

Canadians pessimistic about progress on racism and equity, survey finds

The results of a nationwide survey conducted by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) and the Environics Institute for Survey Research confirm the reality and scope of racism in Canada and its effects on Canada’s racialized population.

While most Canadians feel that race relations both in the country and in their local community are generally good, they are less likely to believe this than two years ago.

This worsening perspective is most significant for Black Canadians (49% of whom now say race relations are generally good, down 23% from 2019), and just over half of Indigenous Peoples (51%) are least likely to describe race relations in Canada as generally good.

The survey also reveals that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to increasing anti-Asian sentiment, with many who are Chinese, South Asian, or with other Asian backgrounds reporting racially-motivated harassment in the form of people acting uncomfortably around them, being subjected to slurs and jokes, and fearing someone might threaten or physically attack them.

Some also say other people have gone out of their way to express support since the pandemic began. Such experiences – both positive and negative – are as likely to be reported by Canadians who are Black or First Nations for whom such treatment has been a more persistent experience.

Notably, a majority (59%) of Canadians recognize that the pandemic has led to rising discrimination against Chinese people, but fewer believe this has affected those who are South Asian (38%) or East or Southeast Asian (26%).

This research is the most comprehensive of its type in Canada, and captures the opinions, perceptions, and lived experiences of the country’s major racial-cultural groups and how they are evolving over time.

The survey shows that discrimination and mistreatment because of one’s race is a common experience, with one in five Canadians reporting this happens to them regularly or from time to time.

Over the past two years, an increasing number see the problem as stemming from systemic inequities in the country’s laws and institutions rather than individual prejudice.

As well, there is a growing belief – among both racialized and non-racialized Canadians, that people of colour are treated less fairly in specific settings and circumstances, especially when dealing with the police, but also in the workplace, in the courts, in stores, and restaurants, and when receiving health care services.

“This research documents increasing awareness and acknowledgment of the reality of systemic racism among non-racialized Canadians since 2019,” comments Keith Neuman, the lead researcher at the Environics Institute. “This is a positive development in that meaningful change toward racial equity and justice requires expanding recognition of this reality across the population.”

“Events like the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent anti-Asian racism born from it, as well as the global protests spawned from the murder of George Floyd, exposed the long-simmering trauma that many racialized communities have felt for years, and this report confirms that,” said Mohammed Hashim, Executive Director of CRRF. “While increased awareness on the domino effect of systemic racism in Canada is a good thing, the results of this poll show that progress has been slow and that there is much to be done to create systemic reforms to make Canadian communities more equitable for all.”

Download the Race Relations in Canada 2021 report